Meet the young woman leading anti-corruption efforts in Slovakia

Zuzana Hlávková, age 27, is a whistleblower who exposed misuses in media campaigns for the Slovak EU Presidency.  She has just been recognized for bravery and civil activism.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
Meet the young woman leading anti-corruption efforts in Slovakia - NewsMavens
Slovak and EU flags. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

In 2015, Hlávková was an expert at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) involved with cultural campaigns and events. Together with colleague Pavol Szalai they realized that the media campaigns for the Slovak EU Presidency were not executed transparently and cost too much.

At the beginning of 2016, they left the ministry and got in touch with Transparency International Slovakia. Later, on a blog, they published a testimony and an in-depth analysis of the alleged corruption they witnessed at the ministry. Hlávková was the first person who went public, Szalai followed her.

This is how Hlávková became a role model for young people who want to change Slovakia. After her studies in Great Britain, she returned home to work for her country. Despite considerable disillusionment at the ministry, she is determined to help build a better Slovakia. Along with her ex-colleague Szalay, she has launched a project aimed at supporting whistleblowers who work for the state.

In an interview with Transparency International EU, she discussed the personal challenges of being a whistleblower and risking a career at such a young age:

“I didn’t fear for my life, but maybe for more subtle problems with my career, my family etc. The government’s reaction was that we’re attacking Slovakia’s EU Council Presidency. That’s absurd. On the other hand, the public responded very positively -- students started petitions, we received countless messages of support. I even received several job offers.

It just happened at this age and this time of my life. I don’t question why now. It was time to stand up for what I believe.”

Details from the story:

  • On November 17, Slovaks are celebrating the Fight for Freedom and Democracy Day. On this day, the Aliancia Fair-play announces the laureates of the White Crow Prize for bravery and civil activism.
  • This year, the prize was awarded to Štefan Straka, who has spent a decade teaching ecological farming to the Roma; Erik Baláž, an environmentalist; Zuzana Hlávkova and Pavol Szalai.
  • Zuzana Hlávková is accused of defamation by Zuzana Ťapáková, who helped to prepare the Slovak Presidency at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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